Types of Childcare


Expert Guidance - Leeds Family Information Service

Securing the Right Childcare Provider

Settling your Child into their Childcare Setting

Paying for Childcare

Types of Childcare 

Students with children may need to put in place childcare arrangements to organise their study and family lives effectively.

In the UK the main types of childcare providers are:


Nurseries provide care and early-years education for young babies through to children reaching the age that they go into full-time primary school education at reception level, typically when the child is four or five years old. They can be run as children’s centres by the local authority (including Leeds City Council), sometimes with services extending to out-of-school care; as independent, privately owned businesses; or within the voluntary, not-for-profit sector. Nurseries are regulated by Ofsted.


A childminder is someone who has to be registered to provide care for children under eight in their (the childminder’s) home for more than two hours a day. They are self-employed and have variable availability. Many childminders also provide before- and after-school care. The law requires childminders to be registered and annually inspected by Ofsted’s Early Years Directorate to ensure they meet prescribed National Daycare Standards.

Nursery classes

Nursery classes are run by some primary schools for children aged between three and five. The hours during which they operate tend to be more restricted than other childcare options. Please note that attendance at a school’s nursery classes does not give your child a privileged access route through to becoming a pupil at that primary school, when they reach the relevant age. Primary schools are regulated by Ofsted.


These are community-based groups providing play and learning opportunities for children with support and flexibility for parents. They generally operate on a sessional basis in community or church halls. They are predominantly funded by parental contributions and government grants, where applicable. Groups which run sessions of more than two hours’ duration are required to register with Ofsted.

Before and after school clubs

These clubs (including breakfast and homework clubs) offer care for school-age children to support parents whose study / work makes this arrangement necessary and/or who want the social enrichment that this opportunity offers. Some are provided directly by schools; others are run as businesses. Those run as businesses are required to register with Ofsted. Those run by schools do not have to register separately, as the school will be registered with Ofsted in any case as a statutory obligation.


Playschemes provide day care for children during the school holidays. Some offer full day care; some are slightly shorter than the full working day; and some offer sessional care only (morning or afternoon). All holiday playschemes that cater for children from the age of four upwards and those that run for more than six days are required to be registered and inspected by Ofsted.

Parent and toddler groups

Parent and toddler groups in Leeds are generally a good place to meet other parents and children.

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Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, established by the government to inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. In particular for these purposes, Ofsted is responsible for checking that day care providers and childminders throughout England meet the prescribed national standards giving assurance to parents that their children are in good care.

Providers registered with Ofsted have a formal Registration Certificate, which you should ask to see when placing your child in their care. If you experience difficulties with this, you can contact Ofsted on 0300 123 1231 or email

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Expert Guidance – Leeds Family Information Service

Leeds City Council offers a free Family Information Service which offers guidance and information, including advice and support on childcare, parent and play groups, play schemes and recreational activities, as well as on accessing health and education services.

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Securing the Right Childcare Provider

Choosing from the available options is a big decision and securing the right setting for your child can be a challenge. Ensure that you make enough time to research the types of setting and the available providers fully. Read provider websites, visit their premises if possible, and check their formal registration status, their policies and inspection reports made by Ofsted.

Childcare is often in high demand and lower supply. It is definitely not the case that you can expect to slot your child into the childcare of your choice immediately on arrival in Leeds. Waiting lists are common. This applies in particular to popular providers, full-time places and especially places for babies. Bright Beginnings, which operates as a satellite company of the University of Leeds, tells us that parents should, if possible, apply a full year in advance of needing a place at their childcare centre. For a variety of reasons, you may not be able to apply this far in advance. Other providers may have shorter waiting lists (or, if you are lucky, none), but the strong message is: plan ahead as much as you can and apply early.

Please note that just because Bright Beginnings Childcare Centre has a close formal relationship with the University of Leeds, the children of parents who are registered to study at the University of Leeds do not have an automatic entitlement to a place at this nursery. In fact, as an award-winning provider on the edge of the University’s campus, Bright Beginnings is generally more oversubscribed than other similar providers.

Leeds City Council’s Family Information Service has a search engine for all types of Ofsted-registered childcare providers across the city.

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Settling your Child into their Childcare Setting

Some settings require a settling-in period for children placed in their care. This generally takes the form of shorter sessions, often with you (or your partner) there for some of the time. So please don’t make assumptions about the provider taking on your child for the full extent of your childcare time needs at the outset. You will need to check what the individual provider’s expectations are on this issue.

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Paying for Childcare


Childcare costs in the UK are substantial by some international standards and can consume a sizeable chunk of a family’s budget. We are aware that international students in particular are often surprised at how high the costs can be, so make sure you research fee levels thoroughly as early as possible and make adequate provision in your overall budgeting.

Costs can vary according to the type you opt for and the hours you need. Nurseries generally work to a full or a half-day rate. Childminders usually operate on an hourly, daily or weekly rate. Whatever setting you choose, don’t be surprised if you are asked to pay a deposit to secure a place and/or some fees upfront. You also need to be clear whether there are any add-on costs and how much these are, for example for meals, milk and nappies (diapers).

Possible Financial Support

Current government policy is that all families living in England with a child who is three or four years old can get 15 hours of free childcare or early education a week, 38 weeks of the year for each child within this age bracket – as long as it is with an Ofsted-approved childcare provider. This includes Tier 4 students who have children 3-4 on a dependant visa. Leeds City Council’s Family Information Service holds a directory of childcare providers that participate in the free early education scheme and will be able to provide information and guidance on eligibility, providers and other questions you might have about childcare provision in the city.

The eligibility criteria for free childcare for two-year-olds would normally rule out the dependants of full-time students. However, if your child receives Disability Living Allowance or has a formal Statement of Special Educational Needs / Education, Health and Care Plan, or if you and your child are entitled to support through Part 6 of the Immigration and Asylum Act, you may be eligible for this additional support, but you should check this with the Leeds Family Information Service.

If you are eligible, you do not need to apply directly for this type of financial support: the funding for the free hours is sent directly to your childcare provider from the local council, so it is the provider who will claim on your behalf. However, you may be asked by your childcare provider to sign some formal documentation for these purposes.

You should not be asked to pay any additional childcare fees in order for you to claim your free hours. However, there may be extra services provided during these hours, such as meals, which you may be asked to pay for. Make sure you are clear on any additional costs before you sign a contract and commit your child to a place.

You should also be aware that individual providers may differ in how they are able to offer the entitlement to parents. For example, free hours may be available only during term-time hours or during a certain time of day. Again, check with the provider before signing anything – this could be a deal-breaker if the limitations on the provider’s flexibility mean that they cannot match your childcare needs.

Childcare Grants

You may be eligible for a Childcare Grant if:

·      you are a full-time higher education student and have children under 15, or under 17 if they have formally recognised special educational needs; and

·      you are eligible for Student Finance

Please note that many students with families are ineligible for Student Finance because they don’t meet UK status and residency criteria and/or because the course that they are on is not their first higher education qualification, but it is advisable to check on the government Student Finance website.

For further information, visit the government web pages on help with childcare costs

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